Thursday, April 12, 2007

COMMENTARY>>Major general discusses role as 19th Air Force commander

By Staff Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio
12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas ó (The 19th Air Force is composed of more than 38,000 total force personnel in 18 wings and four independent training groups located across the United States. Overseeing the force is Maj. Gen. Irving Halter, who has served as the 19th Air Force commander for close to five months. The mission of the 19th Air Force is an important one, managing all flying training within the Air Education and Training Command. In his own words, General Halter speaks on his goals, his vision and the future of his command.)


What is the role of the 19th Air Force in todayís Air Force?

The 19th Air Force provides the bulk of the flying training for the entire Air Force. The Air Force is an air, space and now cyber-space force, but our core reason for being is primarily ďAir ForcesĒ and executing missions in the air. In my perspective, we are training professionals of the core business for the United States Air Force.


What is your vision for the 19th Air Force while you are in command?

First of all, itís about the mission first and always; to continue to produce high quality aviators for the Air Force and also for our partners in the Navy and our allies. Second to that, to improve the lives of the people who actually execute our mission, such as our permanent cadre in the 19th Air Force. I want to help make their lives better, their professional lives and their quality of life, to the extent that I can.


Since you have taken over command of the 19th Air Force, have you seen any of your visions take flight?

Much of my day-to-day job involves working with wing commanders. I have been a wing commander twice, so Iíve been in their shoes. If they have an issue, or if they just need advice, Iím the one who is on the other end of the phone or there with them, to help them work through it. What Iíve seen so far is that the wing commanders are superb, their senior staffs are superb and their squadron commanders are superb. I am very impressed with how they are taking care of the mission, balancing limited resources and the welfare of their people with producing high quality students on time. In terms of my goal to produce a great product, we certainly continue to do that.


What are your goals as the 19th Air Force commander?

Along with the goal to produce a good product and improve the quality of life for my people, the safe execution of our mission is very important. There are substantial risks that go with our mission. Each year, we execute almost half of the flying hours of the Air Force, close to half a million flying hours a year. I have wings that execute 150-plus sorties in a day. When I was a wing commander in an operational unit, we might execute 150 a week. These flying hours are done predominately by people with little to no experience. So, at the end of the day, my goal is to have all of our airplanes and, more importantly, all of our people safe. Itís dangerous work and I donít want anyone to think it is routine. We make it look easy, but itís not. That is why Iím so impressed with my cadre. They let students go far enough to learn, but be safe at the same time. Most of being good at flying is experience and we want to give them that experience.


What is your desired legacy as 19th Air Force commander?

Any commanderís job is to leave the command better than when they got it. I inherited a great command thatís running on all cylinders. General Rogers and his predecessors did a wonderful job with the command, and I have a very supportive commander in General Looney. Iíve got all of these things going for me, so my job is just to leave the command a better place.


What Air Force ďlife lessonsĒ have helped you in your current position?

My Air Force experience as a commander has helped me a lot at this level. Iíve commanded units at all levels and every command opportunity has taught me things about myself, but it has also taught me things about our people. The Air Force has great people, and those people are the ones taking care of the mission and making us look good. So, you have to take care of your people. Iíve been in units when weíve had great times with great inspections and lots of promotions, but Iíve also been in units when weíve had bad times and lost people or equipment. Because I have been through these things, I know that being a commander when things are going good-is easy. You earn your pay when things are bad. That is when you look at your people and say, ďWeíre still doing good. Iím here to support you. Letís work through this and get the job done.Ē


What is one thing you want everyone in the 19th Air Force to focus on right now?

Certainly, I want everyone to concentrate on the positives of our business. It is easy to get wrapped up in negative things and I understand that. I ask that people focus on the good things we are doing. We are doing something that is important in the world. I just ask that people look at the Air Force in a balance, and focus on the many good things that we have. For instance, our medical care is better than it has ever been. It may not be as convenient as it was at one time, but again, if you arenít satisfied with your medical care, go out to the civilian world and try to buy it. The medical care we receive is almost unaffordable. Despite cutbacks, we have new equipment. Especially in the 19th Air Force, if itís new in the Air Force, 19th Air Force has it first.


Do you foresee any changes to the 19th Air Force relating to the direction the Air Force is headed in the Global War on Terror?

We are certainly keeping an eye on the personnel tempo of our people. For a long time, if you were in a training unit, you werenít tasked to deploy. That isnít the case anymore. We recognize that not only are our folks training people to go fight in the Global War on Terrorism, they are deploying themselves. I think that the tempo is not going to get better-any time soon. Not that this is necessarily a change, but I think there was a time when people who came to the Air Education and Training Command werenít tasked as much to deploy and that isnít true now.


With downsizing and budget cuts, what is the biggest challenge you face in command of the 19th Air Force?

We have said, at the most senior levels of the Air Force, we are not going to do more with less. I donít think that everyone believes this. We have great people who when faced with reductions, work harder to make up for it. I think what the bosses are saying is that they donít want people to work harder, they want them to find smarter ways to do business and to help us find the things that we shouldnít do anymore. Our responsibility as leadership is to listen to what our people come up with and take action immediately.

Weíve reduced people and we have to continue with our mission. That doesnít mean that we have to do it the same way we have been; in fact, we canít afford to do things the same way we have been. There is a tendency out there to say, ďWeíll just work harder,Ē and thatís not what senior leadership wants. We need to figure out smarter ways. You are the ones on the flightline, in the shops, in the classroom and in the cockpit. Help us to find better ways and then share them with everybody.
I really believe that people in the Air Force should be able to enjoy the life that they defend. There are tough times when we are under pressure and we just have to deal with the pressure and sacrifice, but we can figure out smarter ways to do things with less. We have good people and they say, ďWeíll make it work.Ē If making it work is bringing your folks in on the weekends, or working 16 hour days, you are violating our intent. We are our own worst enemies. We need your help to make this work.

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